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How Tall Are Jockeys and How Much Do They Weigh?
If you want to become a horse jockey, or are simply interested in the sport of horse racing, the measurements of a jockey are something that you may be interested in. There are many requirements that you must meet in order to become a horse jockey– these include weight and height, as these factors are some of the most important to being a jockey. Size can be an advantage for a jockey and his or her horse.
On average, jockeys range from around 4’10” to 5’6” in height, and their weights fluctuate from around 108 to 118 pounds. Technically, there is not a height limit for jockeys, but jockeys are typically short because of the weight limits involved in horse racing.
Jockeys need to have a more petite build than that of the average person– otherwise, they are not going to be well suited for success in this sport. The weight limits of the sport make it very important for jockeys to be able to maintain their weight, but still, be fit and strong enough to keep up with the physical demands of horse racing and training.
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- How Tall Are Jockeys and How Much Do They Weigh?
- Why the Size of a Jockey Matters in Horse Racing
- Weight Requirement for a Jockey in the Kentucky Derby
- Weighing in and Weighing Out
- Weight Requirements for Flat vs Steeplechase Races
- Methods Jockeys Use to Retain a Low Weight
- Who Are the Tallest Horse Jockeys?
- Who Are the Smallest Horse Jockeys?
Why the Size of a Jockey Matters in Horse Racing
So, now that you know how big a jockey is, on average, why is it so important, anyway? The weight, especially, of a jockey will have an impact on the horse that he or she is riding in a race. Of course, the less weight that a horse has to carry, the lighter its workload will be. This helps them to move faster.
The racing commission for each race will assign an amount of weight that a horse must carry, which usually falls within a minimum of 115-116 pounds and a maximum weight of 125-127 pounds. In some cases where a jockey weighs below the minimum weight, weights will be added to the horse’s saddle pad, or with a special weighted saddle pad, to hit that minimum weight. Trainers usually try to choose a jockey that is as close to the assigned weight as possible, because they believe carrying the weighted saddle pads is actually more difficult for the horse.
Before the beginning of every race, a jockey and their equipment will be weighed. Their equipment usually weighs about 7 pounds. If it is found that the jockey does not meet the race’s weight requirements, weights will be added, while if they are over the maximum weight limits, they will be barred from the race.
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Weight Requirement for a Jockey in the Kentucky Derby
One of the most well-known horse races is the Kentucky Derby. Jockeys for this particular race cannot weigh more than 119 pounds, because their equipment weighs about 7 pounds, and the maximum weight a horse can carry is 126 pounds.
Weighing in and Weighing Out
The process of being weighed before a race is commonly known as weighing out. This is where a jockey is weighed with their equipment to make sure that their horse is carrying the correct amount of weight. If the minimum weight is not met, then additional weights will be added to the horse’s saddle.
The jockey will have to hand over their equipment to the trainers or handlers so that the horse can be tacked up in preparation for the race. When the race is complete, the jockey needs to be weighed again. Being weighed after race completion is referred to as weighing in. Weighing in is necessary to ensure that they did actually race at the required weight– if not, they can be disqualified for cheating.
Weight Requirements for Flat vs Steeplechase Races
There are different types of horse races, and therefore there are different rules for these when it comes to weight minimums and maximums. Two of these races are the steeplechase race and the flat race. Steeplechase jockeys usually weigh more than the jockeys who compete in flat races, and the corresponding weight requirements are adjusted accordingly.
On average, a steeplechase jockey may weigh between 135-140 pounds. Some races even have a minimum weight of 135 pounds for steeplechase jockeys. They are also taller than flat race jockeys. If a steeplechase jockey does not hit the minimum weight for a race, weights may be added to the horse’s load– just like it can be for a flat race jockey.
Steeplechase jockeys are able to have a higher weight minimum due to the nature of the race that they participate in. The additional weight of a steeplechase jockey can allow for a better tempo during the race when the horse and rider are leaping over obstacles. Speed is, of course, still important in a steeplechase race, but a horse must be able to safely clear all of the jumps and obstacles, too.
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Methods Jockeys Use to Retain a Low Weight
Since there is so little room for error, jockeys take maintaining their low weight very seriously! After all, their ability to race depends on it. Most jockeys are short and average between 5’ to 5’3” in height. These heights make it easier for jockeys to keep their weight on the low side while still being healthy, as well as athletic enough to be able to compete successfully.
Jockeys implement many different methods to keep their weight down– some healthier than others. Most of these methods, in fact, are unhealthy. One such tactic is flipping, which is simply another term for vomiting. It was one of the most popular and widespread weight control methods for jockeys. It was so common that jockey rooms even used to have flip bowls to encourage flipping. These days, flip bowls have been, on the whole, removed, and the practice is frowned upon.
A study was taken by the Chicago Rehabilitation Institute, showed that 69% of jockeys skip meals to control or reduce their weight for races. Another common practice is to sweat in saunas before a race to reduce water weight and sustain the race’s weight requirements. Some jockeys even implement the use of laxatives to induce bowel movements and lose weight this way. Diet pills and excessive sweating in sweatsuits– similar to the sauna approach– are other methods that jockeys may rely on to retain a low weight.
As mentioned above, these tactics are not healthy tactics for jockeys. They may help them to maintain their weight in the short term, but they can also have some lasting long-term effects. Some of the health problems that can be caused are tooth erosion, nutritional deficiencies, and dehydration. In reaction to this, there has been a movement among jockeys where they have urged decision-makers and race officials to increase the weight restrictions so that jockeys across the board can lead healthier lives. Minimums have gone up by a few pounds over the years, but jockeys are pushing for limits to increase to 118 pounds in many cases.
It is also important to note that there are some larger jockeys out there, too. The smaller and lighter you are, the more of an advantage you have out on the racetrack. That being said, there are some taller jockeys, as well as exercise riders, who generally weigh between 130-150 pounds.
Who Are the Tallest Horse Jockeys?
As we mentioned previously, there are still tall horse jockeys out there, too, even though shorter jockeys are more common or are thought to have more success. The tallest horse jockey recorded is Stuart Brown, who was an Australian jockey. He was about 6’3” tall. You would think that he would be too large to have a successful career in horse racing, but that is simply not true! Stuart Brown won over 200 races during his racing career, and not only did he race Thoroughbreds, but he raced camels, too.
Bruce Hobbs is another one of the tallest horse jockeys. He is the tallest person to have won the Grand National, and the youngest, too! He was 6’ tall, and when he won the race in 1938, he was only 17 years old. The horse he was racing was Battleship, which was a son of Man o’ War.
Louise Moeller is known as the tallest female jockey. She was born in Denmark and stood at 6’1” tall. Over her racing career, she has 70 wins and more than 500 starts.
This one is pretty interesting, too– the NBA player Manute Bol is the tallest person to have competed in a horse race. Of course, he was not a professional jockey. Instead, he was competing in a charity event race at Hoosier Park in Indiana. He is 7’7” tall.
Who Are the Smallest Horse Jockeys?
Smaller horse jockeys are much more common. The shortest recorded jockey is Kenneth Glover, who was only 4’ tall. He hailed from Harrogate, Yorks, and he competed in his first race at the age of 15 in 1953.
The Little Colonel, or William Klinke, was another one of the smallest horse jockeys. He began to race in 1983, and won over 1000 races in his racing career. Some career highlights of his include winning Egret Stakes, the Rockingham Stake, and Columbus Day Handicap.
When it comes to female jockeys, Julia Krone is the smallest female jockey in America. She is only 4’10”, and is also the first female jockey to have been inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame– no small feat! She is the first woman who has won a Triple Crown race after winning the Belmont Stakes in 1995, and is the first female jockey to have won a Breeder’s Cup race, too.